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Kristaps Porzingis ‘extremely happy’ to join the Celtics

“That fire that I got from that idea is going to gas me up for the rest of the summer and my time here.”

NBA: Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
Kristaps Porzingis backs Pascal Siakam down in a game this March.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis was just about ready to fall asleep in Latvia early last Thursday morning when he heard the initial trade that would have sent him to the Celtics had fallen apart.

That kept him up for a bit longer, then he decided to go to bed and see what happened in the morning.

“I woke up and saw that the trade happened, and I was just extremely excited and extremely happy,” Porzingis said.

A week later, the newly acquired 7-foot-3 flamethrower met the Boston media for the first time at the Auerbach Center. He sported a plain white T-shirt, a shiny gold wristwatch and a scruffy beard and proudly held up a green, No. 8 jersey alongside head coach Joe Mazzulla and President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens.

Only a few single-digit numbers were available (4 and 8) and Porzingis chose 8. Somewhere, Antoine Walker shimmies in approval.

Porzingis was calm and measured throughout the press conference, yet he made it clear this isn’t an opportunity he takes lightly. The resounding theme was how he believes he can make life easier for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the rest of the Celtics, while they simultaneously make life easier for him.

His goal is to take pressure off the stars and add his own flair to complement what already exists. When asked about the notion that he could be the missing piece to put Boston over the top, he grinned and eagerly made his vision clear.

“That fire that I got from that idea is going to gas me up for the rest of the summer and my time here,” Porzingis said.

Porzingis called it an “extremely easy” decision to come to Boston and said he’s thrilled to play for an “historic” and “iconic” franchise. Fresh off a career season, he said he’s entering his prime and expects his best years to come in the near future.

He said the trade helped him realize how much he missed playing on a big stage like he did with the Knicks, as an NBA newbie, when he may not have been quite ready for the spotlight. Porzingis added that he’s grown up a lot since then. New York, he said, prepared him for almost anything.

While the talent on the roster is obvious, Porzingis acknowledged it may take some time to find chemistry on the floor. He does, however, expect it will come.

When asked if he’ll be ready to perform in the playoffs, he provided an honest and refreshing answer.

“Who knows?” Porzingis said. “But I’m going to do everything I can to help this team. I have a taste of it, and I know what it’s like.”

He understands his role extends off the court as well. After his press conference, Porzingis spent time with Ukrainian basketball players who have been displaced in Latvia since the war began and are visiting Massachusetts.

Mazzulla, meanwhile, is eager to incorporate Porzingis in a variety of ways. He highlighted his versatility and noted how he can comfortably play both outside the 3-point line and at the rim.

He said he told Marcus Smart he loves him and appreciates him. The idea isn’t to replace Smart. That’s not possible. It’s to incorporate Porzingis and find ways to maximize the fit.

“I think Kristaps will make our team better, and I think he’ll make our locker room better as well,” Mazzulla said.

Stevens, meanwhile, said the Celtics are “thrilled to have Porzingis,” and reiterated that they may not be done just yet. The goal is not to accumulate as much talent as possible, but rather to find “accentuators” who mesh well with what’s already present.

“We’re really lucky,” Stevens said. “We’ve got the green light to continue to add.”

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